Comcast's Internet TV Service Won't Have Any Cable Nets But HBO

Service to Cost $15 a Month But Won't Carry ESPN, NBCUniversal Cable Nets

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Comcast Chairman-CEO Brian Roberts speaks during a news conference at the National Cable and Telecommunications Association Cable Show in Washington, D.C., in June 2013.
Comcast Chairman-CEO Brian Roberts speaks during a news conference at the National Cable and Telecommunications Association Cable Show in Washington, D.C., in June 2013. Credit: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg
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If content is king, then Comcast's upcoming internet-delivered TV service will have a somewhat-less royal amount of programming.

When it arrives at the end of this summer, Comcast's internet TV service Stream will let subscribers stream live, on-demand and recorded shows from broadcast networks and HBO to their phones, computers and tablets for $15 a month, according to the company's announcement. They won't be able to access the service through their TVs, however, or watch any other cable channels aside from HBO, according to The New York Times. That means no ESPN or CNN and none of Comcast-owned NBC Universal cable networks such as Bravo, MSNBC or USA.

Stream's initial incarnation isn't likely to create a new wave of people tossing their cable boxes, given the alternatives already available.

Dish Network's Sling TV, for example, offers roughly 20 cable TV networks, including ESPN, CNN, TNT and AMC for $20 a month. It includes none of the broadcast networks, but customers could buy a $30 antenna from Best Buy to pull in live broadcast signals without an monthly fee. Verizon is also preparing to roll out an internet TV service later this summer, though it's unclear which TV networks it will carry.

Hulu's paid tier plus HBO GO or Netflix will also continue to satisfy many cord-cutters or "cord-nevers."

Given its limited content lineup, Comcast's Stream may work best for now as a tool to lure cord-cutters and cord-nevers toward cable's embrace. If Comcast can whet these people's appetites, maybe it can up-sell them on its bigger TV packages that include cable channels they can't watch via Stream.

Comcast's cable-TV service, like most traditional pay-TV offerings, has suffered subscriber declines as digital alternatives grow, although it comprises the company's biggest revenue stream. More people subscribe to its internet service as of the first quarter of this year.

There are other limitations to Comcast's internet TV service. Stream will only be available to people who already pay Comcast for broadband internet access, and initially only to those subscribers in Boston, to be followed by Chicago and Seattle. The company plans to make it available to all of its broadband internet customers by early 2016.